12 Aug 2012

First Steps as the New Principal

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It’s that time of year when local stores are advertising back-to-school specials, bus drivers are practicing their new routes, and maintenance workers are hurrying to finish the last of the repair work orders. Many Principals are already back in their office preparing for the new school year. Soon, teachers will be returning for professional development days before all their new students come chattering through the classroom doors.

What if you are a new principal? Where do you start? How do you accomplish so much in so little time? Where do you put your priorities? Regardless of how prepared you are for this new phase of your career, it can be overwhelming and downright scary. Here are ten first steps to put your journey on the right path.

  1. Be a Listener  — Listen for what is important to your students, parents and faculty. Be curious and ask questions with the intent to learn more. What are their dreams and barriers? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  2. Be a Learner – Learn as much as possible about the school’s past performance. Study the available data, demographics, budget, and available surveys.
  3. Be a Communicator — Begin to take opportunities to share glimpses of your vision for the school. Others will feel more stable as they learn what is important to you.
  4. Be a Relationship Builder  — It is true that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. By building the foundation of new relationships, trust grows and relationships begin to strengthen.
  5. Be Collaborative — It takes a whole school to improve and move learning forward. The most successful principals bring other people with them so that they are all able to work together toward the same goal.
  6. Be a Role Model – Everyone will be watching you to see who you really are. Actions really do speak louder than words. To have the greatest impact actions and words are aligned with your beliefs. Many will follow your model.
  7. Be Passionate – Being an educator can be an exhausting sometimes, discouraging experience. Others will be energized and encouraged through your passion for excellence.
  8. Be Student Focused – Being student focused is common ground for all groups. It seems so obvious, but it is much too easy for other things to crowd out the focus on students. You are the driving force to keep kids first.
  9. Be a Colleague – Form connections with a network of other principals both locally, in your state and globally. This group will be invaluable support for you.
  10. Be a Leader – What does that mean to you? What kind of leader do you want to be? How do you want to show up each day? Decide now, at the beginning of your career, what you want your leadership legacy to be. That legacy will be built one decision, one interaction, and one day at a time. Begin on your first day being the difference maker you want to be!

What other first steps are important? We would love to hear from you.